Dutch court approves extradition of 10 Somali piracy suspects to Germany

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dutch court sends Germany Somali piracy suspects

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court on Friday ordered 10 suspected Somali pirates to be extradited to Germany, where Hamburg prosecutors want to charge them with hijacking a German container ship.

The nine men and one teenager were captured in the Gulf of Aden in an April 5 high seas rescue by Dutch Marines that left the MV Taipan ship’s bridge riddled with bullet holes, though nobody was hurt.

Amsterdam District Court approved their extradition after rejecting arguments by the Somalis’ lawyers that they should be tried in the Netherlands.

Because the extradition request was between two European Union nations, the Somalis have no right to appeal the decision. They are expected to be transferred within the next 10 days.

Defense lawyer Michiel Balemans said he was not surprised, but had hoped the court would take a more critical look at some of his arguments. He argued that there was some doubt as to which flag the ship was sailing under when it was hijacked.

It is a rare example of a European nation prosecuting captured pirates. Other piracy cases are under way or pending in the Netherlands and France.

But the vast majority of pirates captured by an international flotilla shepherding cargo and aid ships through the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean are disarmed and released because of difficulties prosecuting them.

The suspects in court Friday were captured after Dutch marines slid down ropes from a helicopter to retake the cargo vessel. The ship’s crew had taken cover in a locked safe room after the armed pirates hijacked the ship about 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Somalia.

The initial hijacking and subsequent rescue left the ship’s bridge riddled with bullet holes. The pirates all dropped their weapons and surrendered when confronted by the heavily armed Dutch boarding party.

They were locked up on a Dutch frigate before being transferred to land and flown to the Netherlands.

Lawyers for the men argued last month that because they were questioned by Dutch authorities after their arrest they should be tried in the Netherlands.

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